A mother has been attacked by a shark whilst swimming off a remote island in the South Atlantic as she tried to get back to Britain despite travel chaos in the region.
Frankie Gonsalves, a social worker for the St Helena Government, had been hitching a ride on a cruise ship because of two shut airports and a broken down supply ship when she went snorkeling off Ascension Island with her husband Dean and was attacked.
He punched the unidentified shark to fend it off as his wife, who was bitten on her calf and foot, scrambled back to shore before being rushed to the island's tiny single-doctor hospital.
She is now in "good spirits" awaiting a medical plane to fly her back to the UK, her father Irving Benjamin said, but Mr Gonsalves and her two children have had to leave her and return to the cruise ship as it is the only way that they can get home.
Mr Gonsalves cannot contact his wife and family from the ship, which is taking him to Cape Verde where the family can catch a tourist flight.
It is understood that his only comment so far has been: "Who would have known how hard a shark's head is?"
Mr Benjamin said: "She is in a stable condition, I have been speaking to her on the phone at the hospital and they are anticipating that she will be medevacked to the UK possibly on Wednesday now. She is in good spirits."
Mrs Gonsalves was returning to Britain to spend time with family and friends on her mid term break when the family found themselves "pretty stuck" by travel chaos across the South Atlantic.
St Helena's airport, built with the help of £285 million from the Department of International Development, was due to open last May but flights have been postponed indefinitely as it is too windy for commercial aircraft to land safely.
As a result, people normally get the island's ageing supply ship, the RMS St Helena, to Ascension Island, but it broke down near South Africa in late March and it remains there having repairs to its propellor.
Furthermore, flights have stopped touching down on the military runway on Ascension for safety reasons, reportedly because of cracks in the runway.
Therefore the Gonsalves family, who "luckily" had just managed to get a place on a passing cruise ship, were travelling to Cape Verde to pick up a flight.
They had a one night stop over in Ascension when the attack took place.
Mr Benjamin, speaking from his home in Deal, Kent, said: "They were swimming about 10 metres from the shore when she was attacked around her feet and calf she shouted out and Dean fended off the shark whilst she got to shore. He punched the shark."
Mrs Gonsalves has a "long way to go" to recover from the "severe damage" caused in the attack, but her injuries are not life threatening and it is hoped that her foot will recover, he added.
Swimmers have been warned by local government that they enter the surrounding waters at their own risk, but it remains popular with tourists for scuba diving and fishing trips. English Bay, where she was swimming is considered one of two safe bathing beaches.
The Ascension Island Government's own website still says: "If sea conditions are favourable you may want to swim at English Bay – a 15 minute drive from Georgetown. Wildlife lovers are in for a treat here – simply don a mask and snorkel and paddle around, just off-shore you will be able to spot just about all of Ascension’s smaller tropical fish species in one place!"
Mrs Gonsalves moved to St Helena from London in 2015 as the island tried to strengthen its children's services in the wake of allegations of endemic child abuse which saw claims of paedophilia and sexual abuse being systematically covered up by the government and Foreign Office.